Time for a referendum on the Maori seats

September 30th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Parliament now has more Maori MPs than ever before, prompting one commentator to question whether Maori seats were still needed.

Nineteen Maori MPs have been elected in general electorates and on party lists. Once the seven Maori seats are included, the total number of MPs who identify as Maori is 26 – up from 21 in 2011.

This means one in five MPs in the new Parliament were Maori, compared to one in seven in the general population.

The National Party’s caucus is 15 per cent Maori, including two MPs likely to be given high-ranking portfolios – Paula Bennett and Hekia Parata.

The growing proportion of Maori in Parliament was met with mixed responses from Maori leaders.

Former Maori Affairs Minister Dover Samuels said increased Maori representation was a step forward, especially because many were elected in mainstream parties.

But former Alliance MP and Maori commentator Willie Jackson said it meant little unless those Maori MPs fought for Maori interests.

“It’s only a victory if they take a pro-Maori position with their work. You could have 50 Maoris in there but if they don’t act like Maori and don’t work along kaupapa Maori lines and advance Maori position it’s absolutely meaningless.”

The election of 26 Maori MPs was likely to fuel the argument over Maori seats, established to ensure Maori had a minimum representation in the House.

Mr Samuels said Maori needed to have an “informed debate” about whether the Maori electorates were needed.

I don’t think it would be helpful for the Maori seats to be abolished without the agreement of Maori. It would generate hostility and division.

However I think retaining them is divisive also. I do not like having separate seats on the basis of race.

I thought the 1986 Royal Commission on the Electoral System proposed a worthy alternative to the Maori seats – and that was to have a lower (or no) threshold for Maori parties (in recognition of the fact they were competing within a smaller population base).

The one thing no Parliament has ever done, is allow Maori a say on whether they want to retain the Maori seats. I think it is time we do that.

What I propose is a referendum held among those on the electoral roll of Maori descent. It should ask Maori to choose between:

a) retaining the Maori seats
b) The proposal by the Royal Commission to abolish the seats but have no threshold (effectively 0.4% then) for Maori parties

I favour the Royal Commission’s proposal because it would better recognise the diversity of opinion in Maoridom. The Maori seats mean that in each electorate only one view is represented – the winning party. Under the Royal Commission’s proposal, you may have four or five different Maori parties in Parliament – a right wing Maori party, a socialist Maori party, an environmental Maori party, a religious Maori party etc etc. Maoridom would do better with multiple choices – rather than the winner takes all of the Maori seats.

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Go Horse

September 26th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Stratford Press reports:

New Plymouth District Council has voted in favour of establishing a Maori ward for the 2016 local body elections.

The decision yesterday afternoon makes it the first district council in New Zealand to have a Maori ward.

Moments after the historic decision was made, councillor John McLeod handed in his resignation, effective immediately.

“I cannot work in any environment that has a belief in separatist values, based on race, creed or religion,” the letter stated.

A principled stand by Horse.

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Maori MPs and candidates

March 10th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

National has had two hotly contested selections this weekend for National held seats. Shane Reti won Whangarei and Wayne Walford won Napier. As it happens they are both Maori. No quotas involved. No racial equivalent of a man ban. No head office deciding. All decisions made by 60+ local members and delegates.

National already has nine Maori MPs. They may have 11 after the election. And unlike some other parties, they select Maori MPs in winnable general seats such as Waitakere, Tauranga, Northland, Botany and also now Whangarei and Napier.

Is it perhaps not time for us agree that we no longer need the Maori seats to get Maori MPs into Parliament. There are other reasons you can advocate there should be Maori seats, but in recent years there’s been a great track record of Maori candidates being selected for winnable general seats.

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Dom Post on Ratana

January 27th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

The only question now is: how many seats will the Maori Party lose this year? The party has lost the main reason for its being, which was the repeal Labour’s foreshore and seabed legislation. It has not really found another central cause to replace it. It is losing its two most distinguished politicians, Dr Sharples and Tariana Turia. And it has suffered the slow suffocation that all small parties suffer when they get into bed with a larger one.

The Maori Party may well lose one or even two electorate seats, but it is worth reflecting that if they lost two, then their party vote last time was high enough that they would have gained a list seat.

As the Maori middle class grows, it will produce more National supporters. At present, National’s share of the Maori vote remains small, of course, but it will rise, just as the Black Republican vote in the United States has increased. 

National picks up more support from Maori on the general roll than the Maori roll, but only post-election polls pick this up. In terms of the Maori seats, the records are:

  • 1996 – 6.1%
  • 1999 – 5.7%
  • 2002 – 4.2%
  • 2005 – 4.3%
  • 2008 – 7.4%
  • 2011 – 8.6%

So very modest increases.  But much better than the US where in fact black Republican vote has been declining (except for 2004).

And already we have seen a notable rise in the number of National Maori MPs in the general seats – a trend which might have been encouraged by the link between National and the Maori Party.

National’s 9th Maori MP is sworn in this week – Jo Hayes. The breakdown of Maori MPs by type of seat is interesting.

  • Maori Seats – 7 – Labour 3, Maori Party 3, Mana 1
  • List Seats – 12 – National 5, Greens 3, Labour 2, NZ First 2
  • General Seats – 6 – National 4, Labour 2

It is MMP, however, which has had the most dramatic effect on Maori representation in parliament. The share of MPs of Maori descent in the house is now greater than the proportion of Maori in the wider population. This increase is wholly good, because it means the Maori voice is better heard in the national marae. 

The proportion is now 20.7% of Parliament are Maori. This compares to Maori being 14.1% of the overall population and just 11.3% of the adult population. So that is a very significant over-representation.

Some argue that we no longer need the Maori seats as a result, and indeed the Royal Commission which recommended MMP also believed the Maori seats would not be needed.

This may indeed be true, but it may be better to put off abolition until a majority of Maori approve it. 

I agree abolition should only happen by consent, but surely it is time to start that conversation, and even have a referendum among Maori on whether they wish to retain the Maori seats, bearing in mind how over-represented Maori MPs now are in Parliament.

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Colin Craig says

December 13th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young interviews Colin Craig:

Increasing oil and mineral exploration

It’s almost criminal to be so well vested with resources and not use them. I wonder at the logic of that. I find it fascinating that if you dig a hole and plant a tree in it, you are a greenie; if you dig a big hole, take the gold out of the ground and plant a forest, suddenly you’re an eco-terrorist. There’s no consistency in that. I do think we should make sensible use of our resources. I’m not so keen, however, on letting foreign corporations take the lion’s share … Norway did it well.

Well said.

Labour’s target to get 50 per cent women MPs by 2017

I don’t believe positions should be picked on the basis of whether you are a man or a woman. I think it should be merit. I’m not a politically correct person. I despise political correctness because what it actually really does is just keeps people quiet. I would rather live in an environment where we could freely debate things.

Hear hear.

On the Maori seats and the Treaty of Waitangi

We think the Maori seats served a purpose at a time; that time is over. They don’t serve that purpose any more so we need to move forward and moving forward means getting rid of the Maori seats.

I think they should go, but only if Maori agree. What I would do is have a referendum every nine years on whether to keep them, amongst those of Maori descent. I’d replace them with the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the electoral system to have no threshold for Maori parties to gain List MPs.

Parliament now has 25 MPs of Maori descent. I doubt there is another Parliament in the world that has the indigenous minority so over-represented in their Parliament. I don’t think it is a bad thing we have such over-representation. But I do think it weakens the case for retaining the Maori seats.

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Should blood determine seats?

June 19th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Listener has a lengthy article based on a submission by Michael Littlewood to the constitutional review. Well worth buying the latest issue for the whole article. A few extracts:

In the past three years, I have been tracking down my family’s roots and I now know the names and origins of all 32 of my great-great-great (GGG) grandparents. Fifteen were from England, 10 from Ireland, four from Scotland, two from Wales and one, a Maori, from New Zealand. 

The individual form in the 2013 Census, like others before it, had three questions on race. Question 11 asked: “Which ethnic group do you belong to? Mark the space or spaces which apply to you: New Zealand European; Maori; Samoan; Cook Island Maori; Tongan; Niuean; Chinese; Indian; Other such as Dutch, Japanese, Tokelauan. Please state.” Based on the nationalities of my GGG grandparents, I suppose I should have chosen New Zealand European and Maori, but I really do not feel I “belong” to those “ethnic groups”. Given that “belong” is as much about perception as DNA, I chose Other and wrote “New Zealander”. 

But ticking that box has a great effect on policies and funding.

But what would they have made of my answer if I had chosen “New Zealand European” and “Maori” as I suspect they wanted? The significance of the answer to this ques- tion diminishes over generations. It is now irrelevant and it’s time the statisticians real- ised that. If your grandparents were born in New Zealand, perhaps even your parents, you are surely a New Zealander, regardless of your racial background. It’s wrong for the census to ask me ques- tions about my feelings, which is what question 11 really does. It’s also wrong for whatever reason to slice and dice New Zealanders according to their feelings about ethnicity. I understand the wish of statisticians to continue asking the same questions from census to census so they can look at changes over time, but it’s time to stop asking New Zealanders a question about their feelings on race. 

And he looks at the Maori seats:

Given the now extremely low threshold that establishes whether a New Zealander is Maori or not, it is hardly surprising that the number of Maori MPs representing electors on the general roll significantly exceeds the number of MPs in Maori seats. In 2013, 16 “Maori” MPs represent electors on the general roll compared with just seven separately elected Maori MPs.

I think the distinctions between Maori electors and others, and between Maori MPs and others, are now indefensible. I’m not suggesting we ignore public policy issues of direct concern to Maori. We do not need a female roll and female MPs to ensure issues of concern to women are addressed; nor do we need an Asian roll and Asian MPs to address the needs of the Asian com- munity. That there are still issues of concern to Maori does not justify a Maori roll and Maori MPs. In 1840, the Treaty signatories did not directly contemplate separate repre- sentation in a Parliament of New Zealanders, but even if they had, that is no justification to continue race-based separatism in 2013.

Sadly some people do push for there to be female quota MPs, and no doubt a female roll!

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More race based seats sought

May 24th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A bid by ethnic communities to have a decision-making role within the Auckland Council appears unlikely to succeed any time soon.

The ethnic advisory panel that reports to the council asked Mayor Len Brown for a “decision-making” role on council committees in its quarterly report, given the growing ethnic population in Auckland.

It is inevitable that if you have seats reserved for one race, that other races will want seats also. That is why I think Maori seats at national and local government is a bad idea, albeit well intentioned.

I also note that there are two Councillors from the Pacific community. So why do you need ethnic communities to have a decision making role on Council committees, when members of those communities are being elected to Council in their own right.

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Does Labour want Pacific Island seats on Councils?

April 30th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Su’a WIlliam Sio says:

The call by the Pacific community for allocated seats on local councils is a result of the frustration of being left out of decision making says Labour’s Local Government and Pacific Island Affairs spokesperson Su’a William Sio.

“Given the Pacific community wants a stake in decisions that affect its families, communities and kids it is obvious there is a need for a discussion on how we ensure our minority groups are represented properly.

Does that mean Labour will change the law to give allow Pacific Islanders guaranteed seats on Councils, as they did for Maori?

“An active, participative democracy allows for full inclusion and I support a discussion to explore how current systems can be improved to ensure Pacific representation isn’t left by the wayside.

“Pacific, Maori and Asian communities are the youngest and fastest growing populations in New Zealand. Their voices matter and our governance structures shouldn’t mute their contributions,” Su’a William Sio said.

It seems obvious that Sio thinks there should be Pacific seats on Councils. Does Labour? Is this something they want to do, but don’t want to announce?

Wil that be followed by guaranteed Asian seats on Council? Will all seats be race based in future? Because that is the logical end point of race based seats.

I fully understand the historical background to the parliamentary Maori seats, and why many in Maoridom see great value in them. I don’t support “taking them away” without the consent of Maori, as that is a pretty hostile thing to do.

But I hate the precedent they set of race based seats being acceptable. And we saw Labour extend this to local government by allowing Councils to create race based seats for Maori. And it is inevitable that so long as you have race based seats for Maori, then of course other ethnic communities will aspire to having them also, such as Pacific Islanders. Of course you can argue the status of Maori is different as tangata whenua, but nevertheless the existence of the seats means they do create a precedent.

If you have seats for Pacific Islanders, how could you argue against seats for Asians?

I’m proud of the fact that Asian New Zealanders have been elected Mayors in Dunedin and Gisborne. It was no big thing, they just happened to be Asian. That is how it should be.

I’m all for improving the diversity of both Parliament and Councils, but not through race based seats or quotas. I also support recognising the unique interests of Iwi in local issues such as resource use, but I don’t think Maori roll seats are the way to do that.

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Will there be an eighth Maori seat?

March 22nd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Maori Electoral Option will be underway soon. If you have registered on the electoral roll as being of Maori descent, you can decide whether to enrol on the General Roll or Maori Roll during the option run after each census. Once you do decide, you can’t change until the next option.

The higher the proportion of Maori who decide to enrol on the Maori roll, the more Maori seats there will be. Over the years they have gone from four to seven. It has remained at seven after the 2001 and 2006 censuses.

Some Maori decide to go on the Maori roll to boost the number of seats. Some may decide on the basis of which electorate they wish to vote in. They may prefer to vote in a marginal general seat where their vote can have more impact than say a safe Maori seat.

Research has shown attitudes are very different amongst Maori on the general roll and Maori on the Maori roll. In a very general sense, Maori on the Maori roll tend to identify foremost as Maori while Maori on the general roll tend to be more self-identifying as New Zealanders who happen to have some Maori descent. That far from applies to all, but previous research has shown this. Also the issues of importance vary too. Maori on Maori roll are more likely to cite Treaty issues as important while Maori on the general roll are more likely to cite jobs, economy etc.

Now we won’t know for sure how many Maori seats there will be for the 2014 election until we get both the census results and the Maori option results. Let’s look at what the calculations were in 2006.

First of all the South Island electoral quota is calculated and that was 57,562. The SI general electoral population was 920,999 and you divide it by 16.

The estimated Maori electoral population is divided by the SI quota to calculate the number of seats. It was 417,081 which means the quota for each Maori seat was 59,583. The fact it is higher than the SI quota makes it more likely there will be an eight seat in 2014 if more Maori transfer over.

How many would have to have been in the Maori electoral population in 2006 to get an 8th seat? In 2006 they would have needed 432,000 in the Maori electoral population. That means an extra 3.5% would have been needed or an extra 15,000.

The Maori electoral population is calculated on the basis of the total number of ordinarily resident persons of New Zealand Maori descent as determined by the census multiplied by the proportion of Maori who choose to go on the Maori roll.

from 2001 to 2006 the numbers on the Māori roll increased from 188,487 to reach 244,121. and the numbers of Maori on the general roll increased from 151,931 to 178,139. This means the proportion on the Maori roll increased from 55.4% to 57.8%.

The Maori descent population increased from 671,293 to 721,431 – a 7.5% increase. This means the Maori electoral population was in 2001 671,293 x 55.4% = 371,690 and 2006 721,431 x 57.8% = 417,081.

If the percentage who went on the Maori roll had been 60% instead of 57.8% then there would have been an eight seat.

It is hard to project what will happen this time as it will depend both on the growth rate of the Maori population to the non-Maori population and also how many Maori change their roll. But based on the change from 2001 to 2006, it looks like we could well see an 8th seat in 2014.  The proportion on the Maori roll increased 2.4% last time and they only need 2.2% transfer to get an 8th seat. However that does depend on the overall growth in the Maori population also since 2006.

If there was an iPredict stock on there being an 8th Maori seat I’d buy stock up to around 55c.

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The Maori Council and the Maori Electoral Option

February 11th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Maori Council has announced:

The Māori Council is delivering a public awareness programme for the Māori Electoral Option, through a contract with the Electoral Commission’s Enrolment Services, in a number of areas within New Zealand.

As a provider of this programme, the Māori Council is committed to giving Māori the information they need to make their own choice as to which type of electoral roll they wish to be on – the Māori roll or the General roll.

The Māori Electoral Option helps determine the number of Māori and General electorates there will be for the next two General Elections.

I have to say that I think choosing a body which is currently suing the Government in court to be involved in what is meant to be a neutral enrolment option exercise is very poor judgement. It doesn’t lend confidence to the neutrality of our electoral institutions.

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So much for that hui

September 17th, 2012 at 6:39 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins at Stuff reports:

Maori unity over water may already be splintering.

Forty-five of Maoridom’s most powerful leaders yesterday gathered at Ngaruawahia in the wake of a hui convened by King Tuheitia – and later made it clear they were not going to be rolled by a new pan-Maori body in any discussions with the Crown over Maori rights and interests in water.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Key flatly rejected the claim by King Tuheitia that Maori had always owned the water.

“In law he’s just plain wrong; all the advice we’ve had is that the common law position is the correct position, which is that no-one owns water.”

Mr Key also rejected meeting a pan-Maori body ahead of individual iwi with water claims – and reiterated that there would be no national settlement on water.

Good. The view of King Tuheitia that all water is owned by Maori and should be controlled solely by Maori must not be accepted.

There also appeared to be overwhelming support for the establishment of a pan-Maori body representing broad Maori interests, including the Maori Women’s Welfare League, the kohanga reo movement, the Maori Council and others appointed by an eminent group, including Tuwharetoa head Sir Tumu te Heuheu.

But the Iwi Leaders Group yesterday issued a statement confirming a resolution had been passed unanimously endorsing the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group and its continued engagement with the Crown.

Meanwhile, Sir Tumu said he was not even in the room when the vote was taken – and had nothing to do with his name being put forward. He confirmed that he would not be nominating anyone for such a body.

So the proposed chair wasn’t even in favour of the resolution. It looks like people were just being polite.

What annoyed me over King Tuheitia’s views is the damage it does to the generally tolerant New Zealand we have. There are genuinely divergent views on issues around the Treaty and Maori in New Zealand. That is inevitable, and will always be the case.

However many, even most, people place greater value of having relative harmony in race relations than insisting that the law must reflect their personal views. Take the Maori seats as one issue.

I personally believe it is incredibly wrong to have seats in Parliament where voters of only one race can enrol in that seat.  They were set up at a time when only property owners had votes, and was a way to allow Maori who tended to communally own property to vote. They were a well intentioned device, that should have never lasted more than a few years.

Ironically they then became a method of disenfranchisement for Maori, as they were forced to remain on the Maori roll until the 1970s.

But regardless of their history, I quite strongly feel that a country should not have electoral seats reserved for people based on who their parents were.

However I do not advocate scrapping the Maori seats unilaterally. Why? Because I respect that for many Maori, even the majority of Maori, they have become something highly valued and prized. That if Pakeha New Zealanders voted in a referendum to abolish the Maori seats, despite the desire of most Maori New Zealanders to retain them, then it would damage race relations. So I, and many others, do not advocate an abolition in the interests of a harmonious New Zealand. I would like to see the day where the majority of Maori agree to their abolition – something very different to being out-voted on abolishing them.

Now this tolerance and desire for harmony should go both ways in my view. As someone born in New Zealand, who has no other country they call home, I get upset when the Maori King advocates that I have no rights to water in New Zealand – that Maori should control, manage and allocate water. And a hui is held to seemingly advance this view.

And I am not alone in getting upset, when such claims are asserted. The vast majority of New Zealanders find such a claim repugnant, and the impact of such posturing is to diminish the pool of goodwill that exists. It will create a climate where support for settling historical grievances will evaporate, where tolerance of the Maori seats will diminish.

Tolerance is a two-way street.

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Our separate history

August 20th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Tahu Potiki writes in The Press:

The tone of Ansell’s website is generally disturbing and more than a little obsessive. I don’t really understand what so incenses him but, in his supposed pursuit of the truth, he merely appears to be ranting about the imminent dangers of separatism as if it was a modern conspiracy among Maori leaders, the judiciary, state, media and professional historians to distort the lens that is used to view the history of New Zealand.

I think the truth, something Ansell claims to be the champion of, requires a little more consideration than his apparently unbalanced hyperbole.

If ideas of separateness between Maori and Pakeha do exist in New Zealand, it clearly stems from the early days of colonial government when different laws were introduced for the different races.

Examples are not hard to find.

The Native Schools Act 1867 was introduced specifically for children in Maori communities. The purpose of the schools, the funding available and the curriculum taught were different from mainstream schools.

The early church schools educated children in Maori and many children were literate albeit not in English.

The Native Schools had a mission, generally supported by Maori leadership to instruct in English and assimilate the children into European ways. This separate school system remained in place until 1969.

Potiki is quite right that NZ’s past is full of separate laws and policies for Maori and non-Maori.

I think it is appalling that up until 1975, Maori (defined as over 50% Maori descent) were banned from voting in general electorate seats. I can understand things not being too enlightened in the 1850s, but it is incredible that this persisted until the 1970s.

However to me, this is exactly why we should not continue with race based seats. The fact we had them in the past is not, for me, a reason to justify them today. It is a reason to say “the future we aspire to is one where all New Zealanders can vote in any seat, regardless of their ethnic descent”.

 

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Green logic

June 8th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former National MP Sandra Goudie has launched a petition opposing Maori seats on the Waikato regional council, saying people just need to “get off their arse” if they want proper representation.

Last year the council voted to establish two Maori seats in time for the 2013 local body election.

Ms Goudie said the concept of Maori seats also went against elected representatives’ fiduciary duty to represent everyone in their community “not just one sector of society”.

Council chairman Peter Buckley said almost a quarter of Waikato’s population was Maori but there had never been elected Maori representation on council.

That figure by itself means little. What would be essential to know, is how often have there been Maori candidates standing who failed to get elected.

I note Auckland Council has three Maori Councillors, with no special race based seats in place.

Green MP Denise Roche said the regional council had got it right, adding councils were required under the Local Government Act to encourage Maori participation.

“I think what Sandra Goudie is proposing is a big step backward in terms of race relations in New Zealand particularly when the Government is actively looking at Maori representation in local government.

“You can develop much better relationship and decision-making if you’ve got Maori represented at the decision-making table. What we’re hearing from Sandra Goudie is basically a request to enshrine institutional racism into regional local government.”

So Green logic is that not having race based seats is racist!!!

I think Roche should win the 1984 award for doublespeech.

 

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Maori Seats in Waikato

October 28th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Nikki Preston in the Herald reports:

Waikato iwi are urging the Waikato Regional Council to introduce two Maori seats in time for the 2013 local government elections.

But the regional council has mixed views on Maori representation and a lively debate is expected at tomorrow’s council meeting.

I’m not a fan of race based seats. The parliamentary seats are a historical reality, but that is no reason to expand them into local government. While well intentioned, they can only end up with greater division.

My preference would be to consider giving Iwi which fall within a region’s boundaries, certain rights. I’ll detail what they may be some other day.

Maori are 20 per cent of the population of the Waikato region, and since the council was set up in 1989 there have been no Maori representatives elected.

I can understand why that leads some to say the seats are needed, but one vital stat is missing. How many Maori candidates have there been? Can anyone answer that question?

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Two more Maori MPs

April 6th, 2011 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

Jami-Lee Ross does his maiden speech today, and I expxect Louisa Wall will be sworn in as an MP next week. What hasn’t been on is that this increases the number of Maori MPs by two (and sadly reduces the Ginga MPs by one). The House now has 21 23 MPs of Maori descent (have updated post to include two more MPs of Maori descent):

  1. National
    Paula Bennett
  2. Simon Bridges
  3. Aaron Gilmore
  4. Tau Henare
  5. Hekia Parata
  6. Paul Quinn
  7. Jami-Lee Ross
  8. Georgina te Heuheu
    Labour
  9. Kelvin Davis
  10. Darien Fenton
  11. Parekura Horomia
  12. Shane Jones
  13. Moana Mackey
  14. Nanaia Mahuta
  15. Mita Ririnui
  16. Louisa Wall
    Green
  17. David Clendon
  18. Metiria Turei
    Maori Party
  19. Te Ururoa Flavell
  20. Rahui Katene
  21. Pita Sharples
  22. Tariana Turia
    Independent
  23. Hone Harawira

So that is 23/122 MPs are of Maori descent, representing 18.9% of Parliament. Now this means that Maori are over-represented in Parliament, relative to their population proportion. Now I don’t think this is at all a bad thing. My belief is that Parliament should be diverse and broadly representative of NZ, but we shouldn’t have quotas trying to match the makeup of Parliament to the exact population.

But what it does show is how well MMP has worked for Maori representation. We now have seven Maori MPs in Maori seats, three Maori MPs in general seats (all National) and 11 13 Maori List MPs.

It also reflects my view that one could do as the Royal Commission recommended, and abolish the Maori seats (in exchange for no 5% threshold on the list for Maori parties). Even without the Maori seats, there would be at least 16 MPs of Maori descent in Parliament (and probably more).

Currently as I said Maori make up 18.9% of the House. This contrasts with being 15.2% of the total population and 12.0% of the adult (18+) population (which I deem as the appropriate comparison).

If there were no Maori seats, then there would be at least 16/120 Maori MPs which is 13.3% of the House – almost exactly proportional to the adult population.

I’m not an advocate of removing the Maori seats, without significant consent of Maori. It would cause significant disharmony to do so. But it would be good to have a sensible debate about whether the time has come to implement the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

What I like about the RC’s recommendations is you wouldn’t have the tensions of the Maori Party trying to represent all Maori – something that is impossible. With no threshold (effectively meaning 0.6 0.4%) for Maori based parties instead, it means you may get say three different Maori parties in Parliament – a radical Hone type party might get three MPs, a more right ring urban Maori party might get one MP, and an Iwi based party might get say two MPs. It would allow for better diversity of Maori opinion (in my opinion). Plus you’d have the Maori MPs in National, Labour and Greens.

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I agree with Twyford

January 21st, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Bernard Orsman reports:

It is undemocratic and untenable for unelected members of the Auckland Council’s Maori statutory board to have voting rights on council committees, says Labour’s Auckland issues spokesman Phil Twyford.

I agree with Phil Twyford on this point.

It is worth noting that the Royal Commission actually recommended having an unelected (appointed by Iwi) Councillor sit on the main Auckland Council itself. Labour criticised National for not following the Commission’s recommendations.

Two Maori representatives from the nine-member Maori statutory body will join up to 20 council committees with full voting powers under a Super City bill passed last year in the name of Local Government Minister and Act leader Rodney Hide.

If the council committees are actually making decisions, not just recommendations, this is a quite serious issue. Non-voting representation would be more appropriate.

It is worth remembering that three of the 20 Councillors are of Maori descent – and elected through wards.

Mr Twyford said hand-picked representatives exercising a full vote alongside elected representatives on council committees went against a fundamental principle of democracy and the Government should amend the law to make the positions advisory only.

I agree. But is Twyford representing what Labour said at the time. Here is a press release on 14 May 2009:

“Labour believes the Government should have adopted the Royal Commission’s proposals to include Maori seats on the council, but it hasn’t.

One of those Maori seats as an un-elected one, appointed by Iwi. So in 2009 Labour seemed to argue for un-elected Maori representation, but now they argue againgst it.

Mr Horomia said the relationship between the Auckland Council and mana whenua is important and it is essential they have a voice in local government decision-making.

“Just how that is reflected and how potential mana whenua seats might complement elected Maori seats is an issue which the select committee will hear submissions on and we will pay attention to this.

Again, Labour were not saying they were against appointed Maori representation back then.

“Imagine how people will feel in a really heated debate on some important issue, a committee is evenly split, and these non-elected, hand-picked advisers have the casting vote. People will be furious,” Mr Twyford said.

Again I agree.

Last night, Mr Hide, who is overseas, on his honeymoon, issued a statement saying the decision for Maori to be members of committees was made at the select committee state.

Labour was on that select committee. In their minority report they said:

This bill introduces a Māori Advisory Board. While we have worked hard to ensure this board is more effective, we have not altered our position. Labour believes there should be Māori seats on the new Auckland Council.

Working hard to make it more effective doesn’t sound like arguing they should not have representation on council committees.

He did say he was surprised the board would appoint people to sit on all council committees when the legislation required it to appoint people only to committees that dealt with the management and stewardship of natural and physical resources.

This is correct. So it is a decision of the Auckland Council itself that gave voting rights to the non-Councillors on all the other Committees. So will Phil Twyford call on Len Brown to restrict these appointments to those few committees dealing with natural and physical resources.

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Maori Seats for Auckland?

November 15th, 2010 at 6:43 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young reports:

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has given an undertaking to the influential Iwi Leadership Group to talk to the new Auckland Council about dedicated Maori seats on the council. But no quick decisions are expected to be taken.

Mr Brown attended the group’s hui at Takapuwahia Marae in Porirua on Saturday as a guest.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples asked Mr Brown to attend the hui with him.

The request to discuss Maori representation on the council was put by Tainui leader Tukoroirangi Morgan and Ngati Whatua leader Naida Glavish.

Mr Morgan said last night that Mr Brown gave an undertaking to discuss the issue with his new council which has only just been sworn in.

He had said it was a serious issue and it would be discussed comprehensively.

I have two objections to Maori seats on the Auckland Council – one principled and one pragmatic.

The principled argument is that race based seats are a bad thing, and over time will lead NZ to a Fiji type situation.

The pragmatic argument is that there is no problem to solve.

In the Auckland region, Maori make up just under 10% of the population (and only 8.3% of the adult population). On the Auckland Council, 3 out of 20 Councillors or 15% have Maori descent.

Mr Morgan and Dr Sharples said there was no support for getting the issue tested through a referendum.

It would be a brave Council that introduced race based seats on its own initiative, without letting the people have a say.

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Maori Seats on Auckland Council

October 11th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The council is a balance of experience, youth and gender. It has eight women councillors, five sitting or former council leaders, and two Pacific Island and two Maori councillors – but no representatives from any other ethnic groups.

A pretty diverse Council, and one would think showed there is no need for race based seats.

On TVNZ’s Q & A yesterday, Mr Brown said a referendum on creating Maori seats on the council “may well” be possible in the next three years.

“I want us to have a full debate across the community, and I want to find out the best way of including the whole community in that,” he said.

“But I want to see Maori representation, particularly mana whenua [local tribal] representation on that council.”

Len Brown’s policy was to support Maori seats, so this is no surprise.

But I would be very cautious about mana whenua representation, because that implies that rather than have an election amongst electors on the Maori roll, instead the three local iwi would directly appoint a Councillor. So a dozen people in a room get the same voting rights as the entire Rodney District.

The current laws allows for Maori seats in the traditional sense, but a law change would be needed to have mana whenua direct representation as proposed by the Royal Commission and supported by Len. So this is highly unlikely unless people vote for a Labour/Green Government in 2011.

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A big win for the Maori Party

April 20th, 2010 at 6:13 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

National has bowed to Maori Party wishes and agreed to support the highly contentious United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples despite the previous Labour Government issuing dire warnings that the document is fundamentally incompatible with New Zealand’s constitutional and legal systems. …

The declaration recognises the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination, being able to maintain their own languages, being able to protect their natural and cultural heritage and manage their own affairs.

Dr Sharples, one of the Maori Party’s co-leaders, said this morning’s announcement restored the mana and moral authority of Maori to speak in international forums on justice, rights and peace matters.

But National appears to have given its backing to the declaration on condition a proviso is attached saying that progressing Maori rights occurs within New Zealand’s “current legal and constitutional frameworks”.

Which appears to me to be a sensible proviso.

National’s concerns appear to have been dealt with by the attachment of the rider to New Zealand’s statement of support. This proviso reaffirms “the legal and constitutional frameworks that underpin New Zealand’s legal system” and notes that those existing frameworks define “the bounds of New Zealand’s engagement with the declaration”.

Dr Sharples said the Labour Government’s position had called into question Labour’s commitment to Crown-Maori relations and undermined New Zealand’s credibility on human rights issues.

There will be some anguish amongst Labour’s Maori MPs that National and the Maori Party found a workable solution to this issue, which their party did not.

Personally I’m not someone wildly concerned about non binding UN declarations, and whether or not we say we support them or not. But if it is important to a “coalition” partner, then I’d much rather have something like this given to them as a “win”, than something which I have serious objections to.

So far, there have been five major “wins” for the Maori Party. None of them have caused me great disquiet. They are:

  1. Repeal of Foreshore & Seabed Act – have long supported this on the basis of not taking away the right to go to court of any person or group
  2. Dropping of opposition to Maori Seats in Parliament. I support the Royal Commission’s recommendation to abolish them (and in exchange have a lower party vote threshold for Maori parties) but National was never going to get the numbers to repeal the seats unilaterally anyway, and in exchange the Maori Party dropped their efforts to entrench them.  It’s a freezing of the status quo.
  3. Whanua Ora – the principle of it is something I have long supported, and is linked to the Family Start programme started in the 1990s. I have concerns over how well it will be implemented, but all in favour of devolving resources to the private sector, to help get better outcomes for disadvantaged families.
  4. UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Does not change legal rights under NZ law, but symbolically important to Maori.
  5. A Maori Flag flies on Waitangi Day alongside NZ Flag. As the day celebrates a treaty between the Government and Maori, think flying both flags is a fine idea.

Now if the Government had agreed to legislate special Maori seats on the Auckland Council, that would have gone down badly with me.  I think it would have entrenched the notion of race based seats as being a good form of Government, that should be spread to all levels of Government.

The deal with the Maori Party over the ETS was a fairly shabby one, which I don’t think one can defend on particularly principled grounds. However I note that was a horse trade over getting a law passed, not directly liked to the confidence and supply agreement. In other words would probably have occurred even if there was no National/Maori Party agreement.

The very nature of MMP and minority Government requires larger parties to agree to some things they would probably not have otherwise done. My test is how “bad” one considers those concessions to be.

While I have a fundamentally different world view to the Maori Party on many issues, I don’t regard any of the above five concessions as particularly “bad” – some in fact I would support National having done regardless of the Maori Party’s wishes.

And I compare that to the demands of NZ First under both National and Labour. Winston demanded weakening of monetary policy, making superannuation more unsustainable, huge increases in funding for his pet portfolios, appointments for his mates, protectionism etc etc – a lot of stuff that I regarded as fundamentally bad for NZ’s future.

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Do the Greens want 60 Maori seats?

April 6th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

On Facebook there is a group called Maori 60. It’s description is:

Maori should be equal partners with settlers in the NZ government. There are now 120 MPs. Maori should control 60 seats.

The most prominent member of Maori 60 is Green co-leader Metiria Turei.

That is some heavweight support, to have a party leader join your group.

I wonder how many Green Party voters know that their co-leader does not support a democracy where all votes are roughly equal, but where 15% of the population should have 50% of the seats, and the other 85% have the other 50%. That make a vote from someone with Maori ancestry six times more powerful than a vote from someone who does not have the right relatives.

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Families Commission on Maori Seats

September 6th, 2009 at 1:38 pm by David Farrar

Just watching a recording of Q&A and Paul Holmes has revealed that the Families Commission put in a submission on the Auckland Council legislation advocating for Maori Seats.

They defended their submission on the grounds that how Auckland is governed can affect families/whanau. What a ridicolous justification.

I would say every law passed by Parliament can be argued to have an impact on families. That doesn’t mean we need to be putting in millions of dollars into the Families Commission to be making submissions on laws that really are well outside what should be their core area of focus.

I’m still unconvinced we get anything near value for money by having a Families Commission. Some of the stuff they have been involved in is useful (I think the anti domestic violence TV ads are quite good), but these may well have occurred even if there was no Families Commission.

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Stating Opinon as Fact

September 1st, 2009 at 6:21 am by David Farrar

In a classic case of stating opinion as fact, Northern EMA CEO Alasdair Thompson writes:

Maori have the right to be elected to reserved seats on the new Auckland council under the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Now of course the Treaty says no such thing.

Certainly some, maybe many, will argue that having reserved seats on the Council would be consistent with the Treaty of Waitangi.

But I get annoyed when people form an opinion on what should be done, and then claim that so and so is a “right” under the Treaty of Waitangi.

It is a way of trying to stop debate.

UPDATE: Alasdair was writing in a personal capacity. I mentioned his work role, as that is how almost everyone knows him.

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Isn’t this how it should be?

August 26th, 2009 at 8:48 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald states:

The new Auckland Super City Council will now have Maori seats only if ratepayers force a referendum approving them or a future council is sympathetic enough to create them of its own accord.

The story makes this sound like some desperate lowlife way to get Maori seats, but isn’t this actually the way it should be.

They are saying the Auckland Council will only get Maori seats if Auckland voters or the Auckland Council itself want them. So the decision will be made in Auckland, not Wellington.

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Maori Seats look set for a no

August 24th, 2009 at 9:35 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Cabinet is expected to reject Maori seats on the Auckland Super City council today.

This is no real surprise. It is in line with National’s long standing policy, and the Government’s initial decision.

Blair M in comments in a previous thread suggested as a compromise a non-voting Councillor, and this is an option which I think could have been worth pursuing, and might even have application for local bodies beyond Auckland.

The Royal Commission proposed three Maori seats – two from voters on the Maori electoral roll and one appointed by mana whenua – the local Iwi effectively.

Now I have never been a fan of separate electoral rolls, despite the good intentions of those who back them. I think it is unhealthy long-term to have New Zealanders divided up into those with some Maori ancestry (no matter how small) and those without. Especially as long-term over a quarter of New Zealanders will have some Maori ancestry. It becomes arbitrary. And long-term I fear we end up like Fiji with the population split 50/50 and divided on our differences instead of united.

The idea of mana whenua representation on the Auckland Council holds greater appeal to me (and to the Maori Party it seems). Iwi are permanent entities that have historical and ongoing legitimate interest in what happens on their traditional lands. They do have legal rights under the common law, let alone any moral obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.

However allowing Iwi to appoint a voting Councillor runs contrary to democratic principles. You may have half a dozen Kaumata deciding on a Councillor who gets the same voting power as someone elected by 80,000 people. So I can’t support a voting mana whenua Councillor.

The compromise which I think would have been worth pursuing is the idea that local Iwi within a Council’s area can appoint a non voting Councillor. The Councillor has all the same rights as an elected Councillor – attend all meetings, speak on any issue, be paid a salary, request information from management – but in the (hopefully) relatively rare cases where there is a partisan vote split, they would not have a vote.

The members of the Iwi would have their voting represention done through the elected Councillors (whom they vote for like everyone else), but the Iwi as a whole would have the ability to have a voice at Council (not buried in a seperate Committee) to protect their interests as the original mana whenua.

One of the issues New Zealand has never really grappled with, is the constitutional relationship between Iwi and the Crown. It seems to me the idea of allowing each Iwi to appoint a non-voting Councillor onto their local authority could be a significant step forward.

Where a local authority has more than say three local Iwi, then perhaps you would require the Iwi to select just three representatives between themselves (or even two). So if there are two local Iwi, they each appoint a non voting Councillor. If there were six local Iwi, they would decide amongt themselves on two or three non voting Councillors.

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Rodney on Maori Seats in Auckland

August 22nd, 2009 at 5:06 pm by David Farrar

I was interviewed by Radio New Zealand about ACT’s stance on the Maori Seats. The interview was here.

There were in fact two interviews. The first I was not at all critical of what had happened. As I have said on this blog, I think it is quite appropriate that Rodney says he could not carry on as Local Government Minister if it means introducing a bill he does not agree with.

They then rang me back half an hour later and said that Rodney was now saying he would quit all his portfolios if the Government went with Maori seats. This appears to not be a correct interpretation of what Rodney actually said – I understand he said it would be up to the PM if he kept his other portfolios. On the basis of what Radio NZ told me, I said that a threat to resign all portfolios would be a significant upping of the stakes and unhelpful.

In a later part of the piece, they quote me saying that while ACT supporters may be pleased with Rodney’s strong stand, the way he has gone about it is somewhat disappointing. I want to make clear that was in relation to the reported comments to resign all portfolios, not the decision (made back in June) to relinquish Local Government if there were Maori Seats.

I am also quoted as saying “It is generally preferable that negotiations happen behind closed doors and without ultimatiums about resigning portfolios”. This gives the perception I am blaming Rodney for this issue going public. I am not.

As I wrote for NBR on Friday:

Act also suffers from the publicizing of the leaked e-mail. …

I think that is unfair on Rodney as he was not the one who leaked the National Caucus e-mail – I doubt he is that happy this has been made public.

I in no way think Rodney was responsible for taking this issue public. I have specifically pointed out they have suffered from it being made public.

I don’t know who leaked the e-mail, but as it was sent by a National MP to his colleagues, the logicial conclusion is it was a National MP or staffer. I doubt Rodney has hired Nicky hager to intercept the Nats e-mails :-)

So in summary my position is:

  1. I think it is entirely appropriate that Rodney has said he would not continue as Local Government Minister if he seriosuly disagrees with a Local Government bill or law proposed or passed by the Government
  2. I think it was someone in National who leaked the Henare e-mail
  3. I do think it would be a bad thing, if Rodney was threatening to resign all portfolios, rather than just Local Government, in relation to this issue. However it is not at all clear he has done so.
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